Before Joey Siderewicz can even think about spending time with family today, he has work to do at school.
Specifically, he has football practice.
Is that any way to kick off Thanksgiving?
If you’re a Center Grove football player, you bet it is.
Because a Thanksgiving Day practice means only one thing: Your team is playing for a state championship.
“It’s a special opportunity. It’s something we’ve wanted all year long, so I don’t think we look at it as taking time out of our Thanksgiving,” said Siderewicz, a senior quarterback. “We look at it as being special, knowing that we are lucky to get to be in the state championship.”
Undefeated and top-ranked in Class 6A, the Trojans (13-0) haven’t so much lucked into the state final as they have earned it.
They ran the table in the brutal Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, vanquished quality nonconference opponents along the way, and won a dramatic double-overtime semistate win against Avon to secure their spot in Saturday’s title game against No. 3 Penn (12-1).
And with the finals berth comes a holiday obligation reserved for the last teams standing: practice Thanksgiving Day.
For that, the Trojans truly are thankful.
“Oh, definitely. It’s a once in a life-time-opportunity, obviously,” senior defensive back Tyler Pence said. “There are only two 6A teams practicing on Thanksgiving, which is pretty cool, and we’re one of them.
Jovan Swann, a senior defensive lineman, said he agrees.
Like his teammates, Swann embraces the rare opportunity to practice on Thanksgiving and still share the holiday with family.
Practice starts at 9 a.m. and is expected to wrap up around 10:30 a.m. Players then will have the rest of the day to indulge in Thanksgiving feasting.
“It’s business as usual,” Swann said. “My plans after practice will definitely be to have time with my family, as a normal Thanksgiving Day. I’ll celebrate with them, and celebrate that we’re going to the state championship.
“The fact that we are going to the state championship makes that day even better.”
Today marks the third time in team history the Trojans have practiced on Thanksgiving Day. The first was in 2000. The second was in 2008.
Head coach Eric Moore, who’s in this 17th season with the Trojans, has directed each. And it might well be his favorite day to call a practice, which has built-in tradition at the end.
“What I tell kids is, if you practice on Thanksgiving, it means you have a damn good team,” Moore said. “Practicing on Thanksgiving in Indiana means you’re an elite team. Then at the end of practice, we get in a big circle, and everyone says what they’re thankful for.
“That’s something the kids have really enjoyed in the past.”
Siderewizc already is quite familiar with the Thanksgiving practice tradition. His father, Joe, is the Trojans’ quarterbacks and receivers coach. Joe was on the sideline for the Trojans’ 2008 state finals win against Carmel.
So was Joey, who was a wide-eyed grade-schooler when the Trojans famously rallied from 19-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 36-33 win.
“I remember being on the sidelines, and I remember how fun it was for those guys,” Siderewicz said. “When I was younger I was thinking, ‘I want that opportunity to practice on Thanksgiving and get to the state championship game.’
“I didn’t know it at the time, but the next team to get there, I would be the quarterback for.”